Red Dragonfly on My Shoulder

First published in Woodnotes #15, Winter 1992, page 33.

Red Dragonfly on My Shoulder translated by Sylvia Cassedy and Kunihiro Suetake. HarperCollins, 1992, 32 pages, hardback, 914 by 844 inches. Illustrated by Molly Bang. $15.00 at bookstores. This book is primarily intended for an audience of children, much as was Bill Higginson’s Wind in the Long Grass in 1991, yet is equally appealing to adults. The marvelous illustrations in this book are actually photographs of “constructed” art. The artist explains that she wanted to use “pieces of ordinary life to make something special” (a fitting idea for the ordinary/ extraordinary haiku form). Her materials include cookies, tinfoil, corn chips, a dishtowel, yams, a lobster claw, hex nuts, hairpins, blueberry leaves, jigsaw blades, and more, and they make for very striking color illustrations. The text of the book, which is practically overwhelmed by the whimsy of the pictures, presents thirteen haiku by a variety of Japanese masters in one-line English translations. The following selection by Aohōzuki is illustrated with chocolate-covered almonds, wire, gumdrops, and metallic paper:

Now the pond is still, and scattered water striders reunite at last.